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Threads of fiber lead to unbreakable link

By Liu Shengnan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-05 09:38

Gustavo Ng (right) with a villager during a research trip to Lingqiu county, Shanxi province, in September. CHINA DAILY

Editor's note: China Daily presents the series Friends Afar to tell the stories of people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries. Through the vivid narration of the people in the stories, readers can get a better understanding of a country that is boosting openness.

In 1954, a group of technicians from China embarked on a three-month journey across the ocean to Argentina, 20,000 kilometers away, on a mission to establish a textile mill.

Among them was Wu Zhuojun, a young man from Guangdong province, who aspired to start a new life in the South American country. He immersed himself in the local culture and married a young Argentine. Decades later, their son retraced the same path in reverse, flying more than 30 hours to his father's homeland, becoming a bridge between the two countries.

Gustavo Ng, born in Argentina in 1962, says he was always curious about China, engendered partly by his reflection in the mirror and his family name, Ng or Wu.

However, it was not until the founding of the magazine Dang Dai (meaning contemporary in Chinese) in 2011 that he began to explore his deep connections with China.

Aware of China's growing global influence and its growing relationship with Argentina, Ng, a journalist for many years, teamed up with two other seasoned Argentine journalists to create Dang Dai, which became their country's only media outlet dedicated to covering China.

The magazine comprises a printed version, a news website and a weekly newsletter. Dang Dai caters to Argentines involved with or interested in China, including businesspeople, government officials, academics, journalists, people learning Chinese and anyone interested in Chinese affairs and culture.

"We do our best to give our audience an accurate picture of China through Argentine eyes," Ng said.

In 2015, Ng realized his longstanding desire to delve into his past in China.

"I went back to the village where my father was born and met some distant relatives, who took me to the graves of our ancestors. If, up until that moment in my life, I hadn't managed to learn much about my Chinese heritage, on that journey my blood returned to its origin, taking me along with it. I was able to establish, within myself, the connection between China and Argentina that I had been working on as a journalist."

As he acquainted himself with his roots, Ng embarked on an adventure that spanned two months, visiting more than 20 cities by train to gain a profound understanding of China.

"I was taken aback by how kind the Chinese are, and what surprised me even more was the civilization I encountered.

"China represents more than just a nation; it embodies a civilization with diverse ethnic groups. Within its borders, these ethnic groups coexist harmoniously, forming a unified China. The country's central government is dedicated to fostering the development of all ethnic groups."

Since then, Ng has visited China eight more times. It is the Tibetan areas in the country's west, including the Xizang autonomous region and Tibetan autonomous prefectures or counties in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu, that have left a lasting impression on him, he said.

Local friends introduced him to their daily lives, took him to their sacred places and even invited him to intimate religious celebrations not open to foreigners, he said. He conducted detailed interviews with local people, he said, and Xizang has become an important topic in his writings and pictures in Dang Dai.

A series of photos shows what he witnessed during his visit in 2018 to Yushu in Qinghai province. More than 90 percent of Yushu people are Tibetans, and the city was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.

"Today it's a landscape where everything old presents itself in forms of the future because the central government reconstructed every building toppled by the earthquake. Beyond that, they built a giant museum, hotels, residential neighborhoods, an immense People's Square, transformed the riverbanks into promenades, established commercial areas for tourism, and also rebuilt the Jiegu Monastery, which, from its height, overlooks the entire city," Ng wrote in Dang Dai.

Respect for culture

The government's substantial investment in developing Tibetan areas shows its profound respect for ancient culture and religion, he said.

As an observer and researcher on China issues for more than 10 years, Ng lauds the country's success in eradicating absolute poverty.

"With one-fifth of the world's population, China has achieved what almost no other country has. This marks a milestone in the history of China and of humanity as a whole. It is a significant contribution to humanity. Not only has it reduced the number of poor people worldwide, but it also provides hope for countries struggling with poverty."

Over the past decade, China has not only undergone rapid development but also played a crucial role in improving the conditions of Global South countries, he said.

"By working with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, China has brought about economic benefits, offering them opportunities for improvement and progress."

In addition to his role as editor-in-chief of Dang Dai, Ng has written several books related to China, including 10,134 Kilometers Across China, which recounts his initial journey to the country, and Everything You Need to Know about China, co-authored by Nestor Restivo, co-founder of Dang Dai. Some of his works delve into the Chinese zodiac and have become highly popular in Argentina.

Last year, he was honored with the Special Book Award by the Chinese government in recognition of his efforts in promoting cultural exchange.

"I received the award on behalf of all Argentines who are working toward understanding and communicating with China. It is in the interest of Argentines to deepen their understanding of this country, given that it is our second-largest trading partner and there is huge potential for cooperation between the two sides.

"It is also a source of immense pride for me as a descendant of Chinese heritage. This award will inspire me to dedicate my entire professional life, as a journalist and writer, to fostering the relationship between Argentina and China."

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